Travelchick

My adventures and mis-adventures as I travel here and there

Lester: Washington’s Best Ghost Town

Ok, so my title is a liiiitle presumptuous, especially since I have yet to actually SEE Lester. But I do know where it is now and I’ve laid plans to be there just two weeks from today. I can’t wait and I’m now a little obsessed with this shell of a town.

I meant to leave at 9am on Tuesday from Walla Walla so I’d have two hours to find and explore Lester and still have my rental back to Oak Harbor by 5PM. Unfortunately, picking squash from my garden and loading all my freshly cleaned laundry into the truck took longer than I had anticipated- and also I was a little sad to leave- so by the time I actually pulled out of town it was more like 10am. As luck would have it, I entered the highway behind a long line of cars and trucks. Frustrating. But by taking advantage of my truck’s height I was able to do some grand passing maneuvers. I made it to the turnoff to Lester in good time, but I knew I only had one hour to tool around. I took exit 62 off of I-90 and proceeded to follow my carefully scribbled directions. My truck bumped and slid down narrow gravel roads along sharp drops and breathtaking vistas. Countless chipmunks nearly met their end beneath my skidding tires. I wasn’t sure if I was going the right way the entire time, though, because the forest service roads weren’t all marked well. I kept basically following the main gravel road, however, and eventually ended up at the gate where a sign declared that only foot traffic was allowed to pass (and that doesn’t include bikes). I thought this was probably the place I’d have to get out and start walking down the long dusty road to find Lester, but I had no idea how far it was and by then I’d been off the highway 45 minutes- way too long!

I reluctantly headed back, vowing to return another time. I am DETERMINED to find Lester! When I got back to Rosario I looked on Google maps again and saw that, yes, I had been within walking distance of Lester. One source says it’s a half mile walk and another source says it’s two miles so… we will see! Two weeks from today I will be done here at Rosario and plan to give it another try, this time with plenty of time to spare. I may even camp somewhere up there a night or two if I’m feeling extra adventurous.

Anyway, as soon as I have found my precious Lester, I will fill you in with details and pictures!

*NOTE: I have now seen Lester! Read the story here

Lester, WA

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July 30, 2009 - Posted by | Attractions, Ghost Towns, Travel, United States | , , , , , , , , ,

30 Comments »

  1. I was curious what all you have heard about remains at the town? I have heard there is nothing at all left. I am thinking about making a trip up there this week but don’t want to make the trip and the hike for nothing.

    Comment by Brandon | August 4, 2009 | Reply

    • Well, in about 10 days I should know the answer to that from first-hand experience, but all I really know right now is what I found on this website and a few others that seem to echo the same basic information. Of course that was written seven years ago, so there might not be anything left anymore. I can’t wait to find out!

      Comment by travelnole | August 5, 2009 | Reply

  2. there are 3 complete houses, one fallen over building a few sheds a few cars, and alot of fence post here and there. i just got back from lester about 30 minutes ago, very much worth it. im sure there is alot more that i havnt seen hidden in the trees and such, at one time 1000 people lived there. there has to be more than a few houses an sheds left.

    Comment by cid fits | August 19, 2009 | Reply

  3. Hi! I found your blog after Googling for “Lester, wa”. Did you ever make it out to Lester?

    Comment by r | February 19, 2010 | Reply

    • I did! Right after making the trip, though, I didn’t blog for awhile, so that story is yet to come. But it will come! I’m in the middle of a pretty big thesis defense and move, but after the storm calms, I’ll post my Lester blog with pics and everything. It’s a pretty cool place to go and there are still a few houses to make it worth your while! Well, 2 anyway.

      Comment by travelnole | February 21, 2010 | Reply

  4. I want to go. How did you find directions. I don’t get anything from google maps.

    Comment by staci | February 24, 2010 | Reply

    • From highway I-90, take exit 62. You will be on a paved road for awhile and will pass some sort of strange commune-type place with trailers and such, but the road will quickly become a dirt road and you may not see a single soul. Keeping driving down road 5400. It may seem like forever, but just keep going. You will be descending into the valley. It’s at least 15 miles from the highway to the Lester gate. When you get to the gate, you can park and then walk across the bridge and down the road to the former town site. Have fun exploring!

      Comment by travelnole | February 25, 2010 | Reply

  5. My father grew up in Lester as a boy. My grandfather worked at the RR station. I go up every other summer because we have a 100 year lease on some property, actually right near where this photo was taken. The serenity of the place is magnificent and very tranquil. A few old abandoned homes litter the roads. The Tacoma Watershed employees patrol the area and are keen on making sure you don’t stay long if you’re walking, through. There are good scenic trails to hike around and it’s very beautiful in the valley. I feel it’s quite worth the trip!

    Comment by Nolan | March 30, 2010 | Reply

    • Wow, what a cool family history! I agree that it is incredibly peaceful there. Have you ever walked further down the road past Lester? I was soooo tempted to head down that way, but I was deterred by all the signs forbidding it.

      Comment by travelnole | April 2, 2010 | Reply

      • clydewear1@comcast.net (new email)

        Comment by Clyde Wear | December 10, 2010

      • I went further. Hot Springs is down there where my mom was born in 1911.

        Comment by Jackie | March 26, 2012

    • I lived there from 1955 until 1959. Mom worked at the old railroad hotel. My step dad first worked for Scott Paper and then in the yard for Northern Pacific. There names were Alfhild and Verl King. Mom used to play the piano for the dances.

      Some of my school friend were Dick White, Pete Roundtree, Karl Rainey,and Ron and Rod McDougal. My very first girl friend was Judy Wilson. Her brother was my sister Janices boy friend. I could go on but I hope to hear from someone.
      Email is clydewear@comcast.net

      Comment by Clyde Wear | August 9, 2010 | Reply

    • Hi Nolan, I spent from 62 to 68 in Lester as a Teen Dad worked for scott paper and extra for NP in the winter. I still make a trip home in the summer.
      What is the last name as as I know the McGees are the only ones left with a lease.
      Myles

      Comment by Myles | January 27, 2011 | Reply

    • I am trying to find out about some residents in Lester from way back. A man named Homer who apparently castrated his two boys? sound quite odd I know, but he feared losing them and thought this would keep them home with him. I know the subject is a sensitive one, but I am trying to trace family stories to this man. Anyone knowing Lester residents may be able to help. thank you.

      Comment by todd | April 5, 2012 | Reply

  6. I have you all beat. My father, my mother, her father and mother and her 6 brothers and sisters all lived in Lester. My father was an NP engineer as was Grandpa, and all my uncles. I remember visiting there as a child and walking the tracks and playing with the pet cougar at the general store. My Grandfather donated the ground the Old School house was built on..and where the town dances were held…Grandpa also own land there and ran the town dairy.as well as working on NP…My mother and sisters swam in the Green and were almost evacuated when the hills all around them burned…No trees for many years. Have pics of that too……up until this year there has been a Lester reunion of the old RR folks, but most are nearing 90 (including my Aunt who still lives in Auburn) so don’t think it will happen this year. I have lots of pics of the original town and RR and fond memories of the stories growing up there. It was a great community at one time, the residents stayed close and helped each other when in need. Nothing left of mom’s house but the side walk. Land was leased, homes owned by residents. Tacoma burned the homes down one by one as residents moved.

    Comment by J Lee | May 30, 2010 | Reply

    • Wow! Thanks for sharing your family history in Lester, J Lee!

      Comment by travelnole | May 31, 2010 | Reply

      • Hey J Lee,

        I would like to hear from you. I would like to see the photos you talked about. What years are you talking about. Who was your mom.

        Clyde

        Comment by Clyde Wear | October 23, 2010

    • Hey J Lee,

      My name is Clyde wear. Email address is clydewear1@comcast.net. I used to live in Lester—see the above. I would like to hear from you.

      Comment by clyde wear | June 12, 2011 | Reply

    • hi my name is Ron Rogers i lived there in 1964 and 1965 with my wife Sandy had a lot of fun there would like to here from you i worked for scott paper

      Comment by ron rogers | July 22, 2012 | Reply

    • I was just in Lester a couple of days ago. I would love to see you photos. I can share that I took. we heard voices and heard wood being chopped. I wonder if people live in the area?

      Comment by Janet Hoffman, Auburn, WA | August 12, 2012 | Reply

  7. Karl Rainey’s daughter emailed me—but my email address got changed. Hey, Shannon. Email me again. clydewear1@comcast.net

    Comment by Clyde Wear | December 10, 2010 | Reply

  8. My mom was born in Hot Springs in 1911 which is right next to Lester. She tells good stories from way back then

    Comment by Jackie | March 26, 2012 | Reply

    • Would your mother have known of a Homer…that had two boys in town. My grandfather used to bring him supplies and go fishing/hunting with him.

      Comment by todd | April 5, 2012 | Reply

  9. My maiden name is dzintra dumpis, I grew up in lester, went all 12 years of school in lester. My dad Harold dumpis my mom milda dumpis a brother arvids and a sister Irene. Lester is a place where it will stay in your heart for life.i fell like Dorothy wanting to go home to Kansas. I want to go home to lester, if I could only turn time back. I would still be there. The love for lester will always be with me and no other place can ever fill its spot. I am lucky to be close enough to go and stay up there every year for a week and take in the serenity of my home sweet home. Dezi dumpis mathews

    Comment by Dezi | November 27, 2012 | Reply

  10. I lived in lester as a boy. My father was the depot operator for Burlington Northern and he had the only store in town. Mrs Murphy was my school teacher

    Comment by Rick Schmoe | April 4, 2014 | Reply

    • Mrs. Murphy is my Great Aunt. We, the Rabelos family is going up there this Saturday.

      Comment by Angela | September 4, 2015 | Reply

  11. About 35 years ago I was lucky enough to go to Lester with my Camp Fire group. Our leader had connections to a family still living there. We camped outside in their yard and explored the area a bit. There were horse shoes all over. There were lots of small abandoned houses, like barracks or something. It looked like a cool ghost town then. I wish they had not burned it all down. What a great tribute to WA history to have let the place be reclaimed by the forest naturally. I always wanted to go back but I remember the dirt road being scary. Thank you all for sharing stories to make the town come alive in our imaginations.

    Comment by Niki | June 22, 2014 | Reply

    • I work for the Railroad and we have a communications site across the tracks from those 3 standing building discussed earlier. Today a coworker and I exploring a little bit also found two othere buildings in close proximity to our site, and also the old car, and RV pictured above. Funny all of the pictures I took today I found on this blog and Wikipedia site. Great history, and stories from the old residents. I hope next time I’m up there to stumble across some more hidden treasures.

      Comment by Aaron | March 3, 2015 | Reply

  12. My grandfather’s name was Homer Parks, he had two daughters and one son. I stayed there in the summer from about 1955 to1960 .Sophie Parks was my grandmother, they lived next door to the Roundtree family .

    Comment by Cameron Grant | January 29, 2017 | Reply

    • The Parks family was very kind to me. Betty Parks and I were friends and classmates (she is your Aunt and Shirley is your Mother?)

      Comment by Rose Taber | February 18, 2017 | Reply


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